Trojans fall to Granite Bay in Division I section title game

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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There was a deep history between the two Sac-Joaquin Section finalists before Friday night’s championship game between the Oak Ridge Trojans and the Granite Bay Grizzlies.

The teams had battled in two previous D-II section title games in 2000 and 2002 with each team emerging victorious once.

Oak Ridge’s bid for a fifth Sac-Joaquin Section title in school history came up short against Granite Bay. A year after eliminating the Trojans in the quarterfinals of the section playoffs, the Grizzlies captured their second consecutive D-I section crown with a 35-23 win.

A three-headed, six-legged juggernaut sounds like a creature of myth and lore. But it seemed as if that was exactly what the Trojans were up against on Friday night at Sacramento State University in the form of Granite Bay three man rushing attack.

All three of the Grizzlies’ backs ran for over 100 yards. Taft Partridge led the way with 235 yards, Tony Ellison went for 194 and John Cooley had 126. Each player had more yards than the Trojans as a whole.

The Trojans refused to take defeat lying down. A shootout of a fourth-quarter kept Oak Ridge within striking distance. Blake Martin’s two-yard run and Byron Spain’s 19-yard catch matched Partridge’s two scores, but it was not enough for the Trojans. Granite Bay’s Cameron Smith grabbed his second interception of the night, essentially sealing the victory for the Grizzlies with 2:20 remaining.

“(Granite Bay) is a very good football team. There are no excuses. The better football team won tonight,” said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere. “We were down big time and we just kept fighting, kept making plays, getting turnovers. It’s the first time this football team has seen a Week 14. I just wish there was gonna be a Week 15.”

Oak Ridge narrowed the gap to 28-17 with 9:11 to play but just 20 seconds later Partridge took an 84-yard burst to the house on the first play of the next drive.

Granite Bay converted three of its four fourth-down attempts in the first half. The first set up the Grizzlies’ first score, compliments of Cooley from five yards out. The second led to Grant Caraway’s nine-yard toss to Steven Graber, giving Granite Bay a two-possession cushion heading into the locker room.

The two teams traded interceptions in almost identical fashion toward the end of the half when Oak Ridge got its first defensive stop with a sack from Thomas Mahlman.

The Trojans pushed down to the Grizzlies’ 12 before Jason Samuels’ pass landed in the hands of Smith at the one-yard line. On the ensuing Granite Bay drive, the Grizzlies drove to the Trojan 12. This time, it was Caraway’s errant pass that Nick Gordon picked off at the goal line, preventing further damage from the Grizzlies.

“It could have gone either way. We left it all on the field tonight,” said Spain, who finished with six catches and 84 yards.

Samuels threw for 314 yards and Ross Dwelley caught nine balls for 105. The Trojan special teams also recovered two onside kicks.

Oak Ridge concludes its surprise season at 12-2, far exceeding the analysis of some preseason predictions.

“We were predicted as a 5-5 team and the guys took that as a slap in the face,” said Cavaliere. “(To be at this point) just speaks to their heart and that’s what this team is all about.”